Whether you’re fixing minor breakages, doing custom work or just getting some fresh furniture pieces designed for your living or workspace, carpenters are needed regularly. However, finding and hiring them in Kenya can be a nightmare. Where and how do you find a competent carpenter who will show up on time, who will show up with the right tools, and who will show up ready to get your job done satisfactorily?
We are here to provide a reliable guide on what to look for when you are hiring a carpenter whether for a domestic or commercial project.
Whereas recommendations can be erroneous, they can be very reliable if you’re talking to the right people. There are many carpentry works with cross-cutting features. Relying on the recommendation of a project owner similar in any way to yours can go a long way in getting the right carpenter. You can also rely on career identity platforms like FUNDIS that verify skilled trades professionals and enable them to digitally show their qualifications, experience, skills training, ratings, and completed projects.
For carpenters without profiles on platforms like FUNDIS, you can request to see sample works done in the past. Most carpenters will have smartphones and should be able to show photos of projects they have done. Some carpenters keep the traditional photos album that can serve the same purpose. Be sure to ask for the contacts of the owners of the projects you have viewed in the portfolio so that you can collaborate on what the carpenter says with their past employers before making the final decision.
Like most skilled trades professionals in Kenya, a majority of carpenters are informal day workers. They operate by scouting for available jobs. They could be having a job today and the next day they don’t. Before settling on a carpenter, consider whether they took longer to arrive than would be reasonably expected. This could mean that they are possibly on another job already and they are intending to multitask that with yours. In an attempt to get all the jobs done simultaneously, some often get compromised.
Formal standards for qualified carpenters do not exist in Kenya. However, in our experience, carpenters with a formal TVET education by the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) have an upper hand in their soft skills. In an effort to formalize the sector, the National Construction Authority (NCA) is providing provisional and full accreditation for all construction workers in Kenya. Before hiring a carpenter, ask if they are registered with the NCA.
Experience is essential for carpenters at all levels for both domestic and commercial work. Construction tools, equipment, and materials change with time. Exposure in the carpentry practice can mean the difference between a shoddy job and a job well done. For any detailed job, consider an experience of three (3) years upwards. This is in line with an industrial practice by the National Construction Authority (NCA) that places construction workers who have no technical certificates and have less than two years of experience into an apprenticeship program for a period of not less than a year to acquire the relevant trade skills and knowledge.
There are multiple brands involved in Kenya’s fast growing construction industry. Three out of five times materials are bought at the hardware shops in Kenya, it is the artisans buying. A good way to pick out a growth minded carpenter is to ask what training, seminar or workshop they have taken with in the last one year. Different brands have different product training sessions and issue certificates. This is how new products are launched into the market by initially training their most important constituent- the artisans.
If you have lived or worked in Kenya for some time, then you have probably already heard a famous joke about the artisans that the only good ones we have are the barbers because you can’t leave your head behind for shaving. You have to be there while the shaving is happening and that’s the only reason barbers tend do a good job. This joke mostly touches on how trustworthy artisans are. This applies to carpenters as well. It is important for you to know a few parts shops and hardwares so that you're not swindled on the costs of such parts should you trust carpenters to go and buy on your behalf.
Because most artisans are never sure when they will get the next job, they tend to inflate prices of jobs they are sent to buy parts so that they can capitalise on that one job. They operate on the philosophy that a bird at hand is worth ten in the bush. You can’t trust most carpenters with cash to go and procure parts for you. As soon as they have the cash at hand, for most, that is the last time you will hear from them. If you must send them, ask whether a shop has a paybill number so that you can pay remotely. Insist on getting a receipt as well although it is highly likely that if you're not present for the purchase, the carpenter will get one receipt with a lower price and you will get another with a higher price and the carpenter will pocket the difference.
Whereas it is not a common practice in Kenya, it is important to be sure that the carpenter you’re about to engage is willing to come back for the same job at no extra cost should the need arise. When it comes to repairs and maintenance, it takes some time to be sure whether the issue has been fully fixed. Only pay for labour after the job has been done and you’re fully satisfied. Platforms like FUNDIS pay service providers within 24 hours of jobs completion to allow the customer enough time to observe the job done in order to provide feedback on whether their jobs have been well done.